Tuesday, 18 January 1994

Anglo-Force: Stargazer Chapter 1

    Magus sat in his study at Craigmillar Castle. Before him, on the huge mahogany desk, rested a volume of long forgotten lore. A log fire blazed in the grate, before which reclined Teddy and Toby, sleeping as peacefully as only dogs of three and two hundred years old respectively could. Curled up in one of the chairs lay Jimmy and Tabby, as sound asleep as the dogs on the hearthrug. Igor, Magus’ Monstron butler, moved around the room silently, dusting. At length, Magus closed the book and went to look out of the window.

    “Tell me, Igor, where is Master Thomas now?”
    Igor knew something was troubling Magus for he did not usually trouble to ask where anyone was. It was one of the benefits of being not far short of omniscient.
    “He is in the library, sir.” replied the butler. “Shall I fetch him?”
    Magus nodded silently. Soon Igor and Thomas returned, Igor went to leave.
    “No, Igor, stay. This affects you, too.”
    He gazed down at the animals at his feet.
    “It affects all of you.”
    Once more he gazed out of the window.
    “In the late nineteenth century a friend of mine, fellow by the name of Phileas Fogg, went around the world in eighty days, to prove that it could be done. I did not tell him that it could have been done in eighty seconds, nor that I could have done it. But I can understand why he chose to do what he did. I have existed for millennia, and in human form for almost a thousand years. I have seen many wondrous things in that time. Thomas, I think it is time we completed your education. You too shall see some of the wonders which I have seen. The first steam locomotive on Earth, a Cardiassian dust storm. All of time is open to us, my boy. We can go where we please.”
    Igor bowed, a polite little bow which seemed rather odd coming from a seven foot tall Monstron.
    “How does this affect me, sir?”
    “Even as Fogg travelled with Passepartout, so to will I require the services of a gentleman’s gentleman. Pack as much as you think we will need. Anything else I can create as we need it. I do wish to take the Optics of Haroun Al Rascidy and possibly a few other things.”
    Igor left to do as he was bidden.
    “Where shall we go first, Magus?” asked Thomas.
    Magus took a large book from the shelf.
    “I doubt it Thomas Cook themselves could create a more exciting itinerary than we can ourselves. As I said, we have all of time.”
    Magus opened the book.
    “Ah, planet Rainus. I was last there about two hundred years ago. They have an interesting belief that their High Priests can ascend into heaven from a mighty stone tower.”
    Thomas looked a little puzzled.
    “How do we get there?” he asked.
    “Follow me.” said Magus.
    He led Thomas into a cavern below the castle. In the cave could be seen a huge craft of some sort. Inside it was almost identical to Craigmillar, including the huge pipe organ in the dining hall.
    “This, Thomas, is the Lord of the Isles.”
    “How is she powered?” asked Thomas, his eyes aglow.
    “How else? By steam, the only way to travel.”
    Thomas placed his hands upon his hips and gave Magus a stern look.
    “You cannot generate enough steam to travel through space. And it is not possible.”
    “Only according to the laws of physics, which I do not have to obey.”
    “Then how do you generate the steam?” asked Thomas.
    “He doesn’t. I do.” said a voice like the distant rumbling of thunder.
    Thomas looked up to see the great green bulk of Granamyr looming over him.
    “When do we leave then?” asked Thomas, shrugging.

    A short time later Magus sat in what appeared to be a study on board the vessel. This study also doubled as the bridge. Magus sat at his desk, which was covered by various star charts of various galaxies. It was then that Thomas entered. He sat himself on the large leather sofa.
    “Tell me more about the people of Rainus.” he asked.
    “The people of Rainus are very religious people. The god they worship is very similar to the one worshipped by those on Earth. In fact, now I come to think of it, it may even be the same one. Anyway, they are very religious, and they believe that when they are close to death they must try and walk up a high stone tower so their god can easily reach them when they die. Some have climbed these towers in perfect health, to try and touch their god, but they just ended up looking rather foolish! Apart from their religion I found Rainus to be a very prosperous planet, with a world of riches at their disposal.”
    “So we can look forward to a comfortable stay then.”
    “Most certainly. In fact I’m quite looking forward to this little visit. Some of their scenery is quite breathtaking!”
    Then, the huge oak door opened, and Igor entered. He approached the desk.
    “”Begging your pardon sir, but the aft sensors are picking up a vessel three thousand kilometres away.”
    “A vessel?” said Magus. “In this part of the galaxy?”
    Magus arose from his seat, and a few seconds later he was in another part of the ship, the monitor room. He sat himself in the chair and switched on the screen in front of him.
    “A Treen vessel.” he said to himself. “I’ve never known them to travel to this sector before.”
    Magus checked the instruments in front of him.
    “They appear to be going my way.”
    Then Thomas entered the room.
    “Anything wrong?” he asked.
    “Just a Treen vessel, heading towards the Rainus system. It’s probably nothing to worry about. There’s plenty of planets in that system.”
    Magus then arose from his seat and walked over to Thomas. He placed his hand on his shoulder.
    “And you, my young friend, must get some rest. We have a long journey ahead of us!”

    It was two days before the Lord of the Isles arrived in orbit around the planet of Rainus. From his monitor room Magus began scanning the surface.
    “The towns and villages seem to be in the same space.” he said. “It is somewhat odd that they haven’t got any larger in some two hundred years since my last visit.”
    Magus adjusted his instruments again.
    “Ah, I see they have kept my landing sight clear. We will make for there.”
    A few minutes later Magus steered the ship into the planet’s atmosphere. It was another few minutes before they landed. Magus and Thomas then approached the hatchway. Igor was waiting for them.
    “You stay here with the animals, Igor.” said Magus. “While Thomas and I try to arrange accommodation for us all.”
    “Very good sir.”
    Magus then  opened the hatchway, and he and Thomas stepped outside. Magus was shocked by the sight that greeted him. Two hundred years ago he had landed his craft in exactly the same position. Then surrounding the landing sight were plush, green, beautiful fields for as far as the eye could see. Now instead of that there was a barren wasteland. There was hardly any vegetation at all. Magus looked around and then kneeled down and picked up some of the soil. Holding it in his hand he began to study it.
    “This soil is useless.” he said. “Nothing can grow in this.”
    “What happened here?” asked Thomas.
    “I don’t know.” said Magus. “It could have been war, but the people of Rainus are very peaceful people, almost pacifists. It could have been a natural disaster. Who knows? But if my memory serves me there is a large village five miles to the west of here. I stayed there on my last visit. It is best if we walk there, so as not to scare the natives.”
    Magus and Thomas started on their journey. The barren wasteland continued for miles and miles. It took them about an hour to walk the five miles. On his last visit Magus had stayed in the village of Bow. The people of Bow were a happy people, and they always had a rich harvest. Magus had first expected to see smiling, happy faces. When they first arrived they saw angry faces, sad faces. The village seemed to be in a state of decay. The scene reminded Magus of one he had witnessed on Earth during the days of the black death. When some of the villagers saw Magus they began shouting at him.
    “Bring back the glory days! Stop the pain and suffering!”
    Magus stopped walking and looked around at the village. He found the scene very distressing.
    “Something has gone wrong here.” he said. “Very wrong. When I left the people of Rainus were very happy, very content with life. They almost lived a life of luxury. They had food to spare. Now they are living a life of poverty. We must find out what has happened here.”
    Magus and Thomas continued their journey through the village. As they walked they saw a graveyard in the distance.
    “Come, Thomas.” said Magus. “We will pay our respects to those who have died.”
    They soon walked through the iron gates of the graveyard. Magus approached one of the graves and read the inscription on the headstone.
    “Here lies Dultar, fifth son of the holy house. He gave his life for the Stargazer.”
    “I knew Dultar’s grandfather.” said Magus. “He was one of the high priests of Rainus. He was a wise man.”
    Thomas then looked behind him. Suddenly a huge crowd began to walk past the graveyard.
    “Where are they going?” he asked.
    Magus turned his attention away from the tombstone and watched the crowd as they walked past. They stood for a few minutes, and then Thomas pointed to something in the distance.
    “Look!” he said. “On the hill, over there!”
    Magus looked at the hill in the distance. A large crowd was beginning to gather upon that hill. On top of the hill however was a large structure. Magus recognised it.
    “It is one of the stone towers.” he said. “But I have never seen one so high before!”
    They made their way to the iron gates. Then they heard some of the people talking.
    “Come! We must pay homage to the Stargazer! It is he who will speak to the gods! It is he who will bring back the glory days to us!”
    Magus continued to watch as the crowd moved past the graveyard.
    “I think it would be a good idea if we followed this crowd.” he said. “And find out who this ‘Stargazer’ is.”
    They waited until the crowd had gone past the graveyard and soon followed it.
    The journey to the hill took another hour, mainly because the crowd was moving so slowly. Because of the size of the crowd Magus and Thomas had to stand at the bottom of the hill. Even though they were behind the large crowd they could easily see the high stone tower at the top of the hill. Around the tower they could see a stairway reaching to the top. At the top they could see that the tower was nearly complete. Then the nose level of the crowd began to rise. They began to cheer and chant as in the distance Magus and Thomas saw a small group walking towards the foot of the tower. They began chanting the word “Stargazer” repeatedly. Then the group stopped when they reached the foot of the tower. Then one man broke away from the group and began climbing the stairway. He stopped when he was about ten feet up the tower. He turned and faced the crowd. He raised his arms in the air, motioning the crowd to be silent. He then began to speak.
    “Behind me you see the mighty tower of stone. For nine years you, the people of Rainus, have been building this mighty tower to the heavens so that I, the Stargazer, your mystical and spiritual leader, may ascend to the heavens and speak to the gods, and plead with them to bring back the glory days. That day, my followers, is near. Within two cycles of the moon the mighty tower of stone will be complete, and I will climb these stairs and offer the gods the riches you have given me. Then they will bring back the glory days of Rainus!”
    The crowd began cheering loudly, and once again they chanted the name of the Stargazer. A short time later the crowd began to disperse. The Stargazer and his small party remained at the foot of the tower. When they had all gone the Stargazer spoke to one of his aides.
    “Is it ready?” he asked. “Are they in place?”
    “Yes, my lord. They arrived in orbit two days ago. They await your signal.”
    “Excellent. Rainus has outlived it’s usefulness.” said the Stargazer. “We will soon be off this worthless lump of rock.”
    Then the Stargazer looked out into the distance and saw Magus and Thomas standing at the foot of the hill.
    “Who are they?” he asked.
    “I do not know. I have never seen them before.”
    “The old man seems familiar to me. Keep an eye on him.”
    At the foot of the hill Magus looked up at the Stargazer.
    “Something is not right here.” he said. “This Stargazer claims to be a mystic of some sort, yet he is not. I have a feeling that we will have a lot to do here during our stay.”